Good gravy! Why are we connecting Thanksgiving and Career Development? Well, they are both special occasions celebrated in November. In fact, all of November is National Career Development Month. Another important similarity regarding these celebrations is the perfect opportunity each offers to reflect on all you may be thankful for: supportive people in your life, good health, steady work, educational achievements, comfortable lifestyle and more.
Yet despite the mutual commonalities, there’s also a few differences between these celebrations. Thanksgiving occurs once per year, while Career Development Month highlights an evolving lifelong process. A more notable difference is the awareness of each event. Most Americans are well-versed regarding all aspects of the Thanksgiving holiday and its reverence, history, and customs. In contrast, career development does not claim the same notoriety or universal understanding of its value. Not everyone invests significant attention in the concept, and few mark the occasion on their calendars. Some people experience career development by chance, engage in it partially, or maybe not at all. Others pursue it proactively but often without a clear direction.
How would do you describe your career development? Does it deserve a bigger spotlight? Learning more about the career development process is a beneficial and empowering way to steer your career onto a path of satisfaction and success.
The Career Development Process
Career development is an integral part of your lifelong journey. It includes the process of exploring, evaluating, choosing, and acting on educational and occupational roles and options as you move through various life stages. It is interwoven with your personal development and holistic; it draws upon biological, psychological, sociological, and cultural factors across your lifespan.
Although complex in many ways, there are a few basic concepts that help define the career development process and break it down into manageable steps. Here’s the four main steps in the process:
- Self-Assessment – identifying your skills, abilities, values, and interests to make informed education and career decisions.
- Career Exploration – researching key occupational areas and market trends based on self-assessment results; gaining experience in your desired field to make meaningful career decisions.
- Decision Making – using critical thinking and reasoning to evaluate and choose options that will establish a path/direction of your desired career outcomes.
- Developing and Executing an Action Plan – planning and following a series of short-term and long-term goals you have identified to target and attain your career aspirations; creating a flexible action plan to follow
The career development process is ongoing and sequential. Yet, it is also fluid, meaning you can move back and forth between steps at any time. It is important to note that because everyone has different life circumstances, everyone experiences the career development process in their own unique way. If you’re pursuing your first job, or re-entering the workforce, it might best to first conduct some self-assessment to clarify and/or confirm your direction. If deciding on a career change or job search, you may repeat all or part of the process. Or, you can begin with career exploration to discern the next best opportunity.
By taking the time to conduct a self-assessment, and explore what opportunities are available, you can determine if additional education or training is needed and target your preparation and planning. Your educational choices will influence your career trajectory. Exploring options and requirements for your field of interest will help link your academic and career goals.
In addition to self-assessment and career exploration, setting goals, making decisions, and creating an action plan are also essential elements of the career development process. Some people tend to overlook or bypass the decision making and planning aspects of the process. This is comparable to embarking on a sailing adventure in a boat without a rudder, aimlessly floating without direction. The rudder helps control the direction of the sailboat and balance the wind in the sails. Likewise, planning is an essential component of the process, and strengthens your navigating abilities. It’s worth the time and energy to consider your routes and map your course. The quality of your career development plans impacts your entire lifestyle, your self-concept, your educational and occupational choices, your social circle, and where you reside.
Be Ready for the Future
In today’s workplace changes are a constant. Chances are you will most likely refine your career direction several times during your life. You may need to re-examine your goals, and revise your career plan to take advantage new opportunities. Globalization, changing industries, and increased technology can have a disruptive impact on careers. Many jobs that exist today may be reconfigured or become obsolete in the future. For some occupational fields, there are jobs that do not even exist yet, and new jobs are created every year. You can best prepare for, and embrace, these changes by using the career development process as a guidepost when needed.
Enjoy and Give Thanks!
Whether you are in the beginning, middle, or later stages of your career, actively engaging in your career development will increase your ability to live a fulfilling lifestyle with meaningful work.
So, this November, while relishing your turkey and cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, remember to reflect on all the personal and professional accomplishments you have amassed — and those you aspire to achieve. You have the steps you need to create your own destiny. Now that is something to be thankful for.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy Thanksgiving, and a wonderful Career Development Month!
Maribeth Gunner Pulliam, MS Ed
Director of Career Services
Visit the Excelsior College Career Center to access the many resources and services that can assist in every step in the career development process.